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Telekom Bridge, Bonn, Germany

Issue 58 Dec / Jan 2010-11 : Architectural : Transport

Lighting Design: LICHT KUNST LICHT

Licht Kunst Licht’s first exclusively LED lighting scheme is encorporated into the Telekom Bridge’s architecture and helps create a corporate message.

The lives of the 4,000 employees at Europe’s largest telecommunications company, Deutsche Telekom AG, in Bonn has been made considerably easier now that a new footbridge connects two office blocks across a busy road.

For the employees working on either side of the B9 federal highway, the 72-metre bridge is as much a boon as it is a gift from the company to the inhabitants of Bonn. Before the bridge’s construction pedestrians crossing the Friedrich Ebert Allee (B9) had a 600-metre journey - a distance that many attempted to short-cut by hazardous sprints across four lanes of roadway and two tram tracks.

Safety was thus the pivotal motive for bridging the road at seven metres above ground. Comfort was a second motive and consequently less mobile people now have elevators at their disposal on both sides of the bridge. The third intention was to create a piece of corporate identity.

With the sweeping deck of the bridge supported by just five slender steel tubular columns the engineering office of Schlaich, Bergermann and Partner has designed a structure that conveys modernity and technical mastery.

Licht Kunst Licht’s lighting concept with interactive elements orchestrates the sweeping filigree architecture of the bridge and follows the client’s company slogan: staff members and the public can now “Experience the Connection” on the bridge.

A particularly clear reference to Telekom AG is made by the lighting concept, since it allows the client recourse to its CI colour. A magenta-coloured luminous band spans the Friedrich Ebert Allee day and night. On both longitudinal flanks a 65-metre-long media display has been integrated into the bridge construction. These LED video display panels have a resolution of 32 x 6500 pixels and a colour saturation of 16 bit. They consist of a seamless array of display modules that were especially developed for this project.

From the outset the media strips were incorporated into the architects’ design process. As a result the LED modules and their control electronics, mains units and cabling are coherently integrated into the bridge. When switched off, the media panels do not betray the fact that they are idle video screens but appear as a self-evident part of the structure. All video displays and system components are easy to maintain and accessible from the bridge deck.

The entire system is controlled by means of fibre optic cables from a media room in the adjacent underground parking facility. If the company network is accessed, the system can also be controlled from any given computer workstation. Owing to their particularly high luminance of more than 7000 cd/m2, the video displays, which are also operated during the day, can be consecutively dimmed down to 30% of their maximum brightness.

These media bands display selected artistic contents. The extreme aspect ratio represents a particular challenge for video artists.

The first media sequence of approximately four minutes consists of magenta squares and thus directly accesses an element from the Telekom logo. At irregular intervals shorter and longer chains of translucent squares move across the media ribbons. They can be interpreted as an allegory for information units overcoming by virtue of the bridge the arterial road which separates the company divisions. In the process, accumulations and tangencies occur, which lead to a summation of light intensities followed by discharged kinetic energy.

The squares ‘break ranks’, display arbitrary movements and react to encounters among themselves. The video functions as a metaphor for the fact that the exchange of information across data lines, just like the verbal knowledge transfer between Telekom employees using the bridge as a spatial connection, time and again releases surprising creative energies. This spontaneously emerging potential is often more valuable to an enterprise and the employees’ self-conception than the daily routine and repetitions of familiar work processes.

Good visibility on the bridge’s circulation areas is provided by neutral white light from linear LED profiles from INSTA. This lighting component is incorporated in all handrails and is therefore – similar to the media screens – an integral part of the construction. A narrow beam lighting characteristic and the precise adjustment of the luminaires avoid road users and tram drivers being affected by glare when approaching or driving underneath the bridge. The strongly directional, powerful illumination of the very light coloured flooring on the footbridge and the flights of stairs creates a strong contrast with the relatively low lighting levels of the surroundings. Visually, the pathway is clearly detached from the urban environment; the footpath appears almost to be floating, which underscores the connecting function of the construction between the building complexes.

The footbridge ends on both sides in 11-metre-high elevator towers. Owing to their glass cladding they emerge as airy stand-alone structures during the day, marking not only the beginning and end of the bridge but also the main entrance to the office buildings. In order to retain their functional dominance within the urban context during the hours of darkness, LED channels have been mounted behind the opal glass façades. The flexibly adjustable luminaires are located at the upper and lower edges of the towers and backlight their glass panels with neutral white grazing light. Through light reflections on the supporting structure inside the towers the spatial volume of the architectural constructions becomes readable. When in operation, the luminaires are dimmed to approximately 40% of their maximum light output in order to avoid disruptive glare from excessive vertical luminance levels.

During the dark morning and evening hours the tall glass cubes interact with passers-by. For this purpose LED profiles with very warm amber coloured LEDs have been installed. Hidden beneath the shaft facades are double-pulse laser sensors which detect the presence and position of passing individuals and transfer these data to operating software. This activates the coloured light behind the vertical façade section nearest to the passing person. The distance between passer-by and tower determines the light intensity. Pedestrians comprehend intuitively that they are directing the lighting installation’s dynamics. By coming to a halt or changing direction they can influence the tower’s lighting effect which is visible from far away. This experience of a physical ‘light-shadow’ following the person gains yet another dimension when several pedestrians linger in the vicinity of the tower. The spatial relationships of the people to one another and of the individual to the group define the appearance of the tower.

The Telekom Bridge in Bonn’s Federal District is the first project in which the lighting designers of Licht Kunst Licht have made exclusive use of LEDs as the light source. The neutral white LEDs employed for the footbridge, stairs and elevator towers create an unusual, refreshing impression within the nocturnal urban environment, which generates high visual attention and aesthetic autonomy.

Project Details
Telekom Bridge, Bonn, Germany
Client: Deutsche Telekom AG
Architects/Engineers: Schlaich Bergermann und Partner
Lighting Design: Licht Kunst Licht
Photography: Lukas Roth

Lighting Specified
Insta – lighting component incorporated in the handrails
Philips – backlighting of elevator shafts
Eventa AG – double-pulse laser sensors with software programming
Squadrat – media band


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